I Look Like So Much Stuff: A Journey

When I learned that my favorite girl group alive, Little Mix, is releasing an album today called "Get Weird," I was at once stoked because I can't get enough of the adorable troop of crooning murderesses and disappointed in myself because I don't get weird nearly often enough. The early days of this blog  were all about posting bizarre shit that I dreamed up and since like, six people saw it, I didn't care how strange it was. Now I feel like all my writing here is about writing, the blog equivalent of eating chewed Skittles from the bottom of a popcorn bucket at the Kent on Coney Island. So below instead, is a visual adventure with my face and the various shit it looks like. My resemblance to other shit that wasn't me began early. By my third year on Earth it was plain as day that Little Critter and I were cut from the same cloth. We were short, we had  gigantic faces, and we were tormented by ennui and our own idiocy.

foul-temperament

But as I grew older, I discovered that the only quality I possessed more of than dissatisfaction was G-L-A-M-O-U-R. The resemblance to famed dead pageant super baby JonBenét Ramsey was plain as day, even though she is three years old in her picture and I am nine years old in mine. Yes, I was a pipsqueak of a person. Yes, I killed a baby polar bear to make the luxurious pelt in that photo. No, I'm not sorry.

Alana Massey as Jon Bonet

The years wore on. My golden locks gave way to chestnut waves. Alas, I became a stone cold fox as was my birthright seeing as that glorious sorceress from Arkansas gave me half of my genetic material. Gail, you minx.

Mom and Alana

But as grateful as I was for my mother's witchery, I longed for doubles in the world who were not just magical or dead. But what should they be instead? Oddly arousing maternal figures with a fuh-reak streak like Sally Field, that's what they should be!

Alana and Sally Field

But this too was not enough. I craved more. I wondered if I would ever amount to more than the critter of my youth. My prospects were bleak.

Confused-Critters

Change was needed. Drastic change. As the years etched onto my face and wore away the tissue of my heart, I longed to be a slutty baby once again. And a slutty baby needs blonde hair. And a white dress. And a style icon like the hellspawn Kewpie Doll you see here. A change was here.

Alana As Kewpie

Soon, I began to look like all manner of shit. I dare anyone to guess who is the emoji cookie and who is me in this photo. You won't, you can't.

alana massey emoji cookie

I also looked like the tough but fair older sister to that darling Sky Ferraira in an indie breakout for both of us. We'd have French names like Servanne and Garance and smoke cigs in bed together. Often.

Alana Massey and Skye FerrairaBut why have an indie breakout when you could have a string of indie darlings? Here I was conjuring Michelle Williams thinking about an abortion and Ryan Gosling while on public transport, though I assure you my thoughts were far more lurid.

Fall Look

Sometimes, I would take drugs and fall somewhere between Scarface-era Michelle Pfeiffer glam bitch and Requiem-era Ellen Burstyn, ranting always about being on the goddamn television.

Me and Ellyn and Michelle

I grew bored of my own predilections, smoking indoors like a rotten-cored swamp teen.britney smoking.

Alana Smoking Gif

In a fit of desperation to regain my former moxie, I strategically placed a designer handbag across myself in an attempt to regain the je ne sais quoi of The Lady Miss Williams. It was in vain. Emphasis on vain.

alana michelle williams bags

I briefly turned to the Dark Arts. I excelled in them, as I do in all things. I cannot speak of what I learned or from whom I learned it.

Alana as Lucius Malfoy

As I was prepared to give up hope, I was greeted with a vision so thick with light and life that I was nearly blinded. This, surely, was my Road to Damascus.

keith is jesus

And I realized all along, that my vanity had shielded me from the love which was my destiny to embody as a double. To emulate profound love was my calling. And so I answered that call. And though to love is ultimately to lose, I was glad to bear the weight of it.

Pieta Alana Massey Collage

Personal Writing: On What Is Disfigured and What Is Whole

I am very late to the game in remarking to the fiasco of sorts around "The First Person Industrial Complex" as it was titled in Slate but this is my blog and I had money-earning writing to do, dammit and so it took me a moment, OK? I think that there is a lot of value in what Laura Bennett wrote and I also agree with many of the critics of the piece. But again, this is MY BLOG so I want to talk about my experience as it relates to this piece. My quote appears in the Slate story as follows: Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.16.52 AMThis snippet came from a thoughtful, cordial one-hour interview on the phone and as much as I want to be outraged that the full depth of my relationship to first-person writing didn't make the cut, I know that I have  similarly cut conversations into quotes for the purpose of both clarity and brevity. I stand by this quote and believe there was far worse that it could have been finagled into. In reality, a fuller depth of that experience was better captured in a section of a story that was ultimately cut in my piece "The Cult of Work" for Hazlitt. It read:

Because I make a comfortable living as a writer, people expect me to feel exempt from the pull of monetary incentives. And in an economy that demands that the overwhelming majority of us work for a living, to express ingratitude at my position would be distasteful and tone-deaf to the point of being mean-spirited. I am indeed grateful to be a writer now but this gratitude is a sigh of relief rather than an exuberant shout. Writing has disfigured my relationship to my interior life as I seek to monetize its every fiber, transforming a once thoughtful exercise in self-reflection into a spreadsheet of experiences arranged in order of their potential monetary value.

There are no longer minutes but seconds between when I have a peculiar thought or experience and when I consider how I might sell it to a publication. Even as I write this, I withhold the darkest and the least linear elements in this particular constellation of thoughts in the knowledge that an editor would cut them anyway. I hoard my most clever turns of phrase even when they are apt for a conversation. My hope is to one day insert them into a project that will not be metabolized at the speed of the internet. It is not an entirely ignoble plan but the lived reality of which results in rampant self-censure in my personal encounters.

The point of this passage was not to say "Woe is me, I can't write as freely as I want!" but to express that no matter how graphic the detail, how intimate the prose, and how much a reader relates to the experience at hand, they are not reacting to a fragment and not a whole. Their relating to the story I wrote is authentic but it is not relating, necessarily, to me as a living, breathing human.

An unedited documentary of my own life would be profoundly dull and most of my thoughts and feelings are ordinary as fuck. But there are pieces that emerge from the quotidian and the extraordinary alike to which I say, "You belong to others too, I think." I then take a gamble on whether or not others will relate to them and craft a story based on that experience, thought, or moment with myself. I reconfigure it not to be deceptive but to explain it in a language that people speak. Sometimes it has a dream-like quality that matches the moment at which the thought happened even if the thought itself felt uncomplicated and sometimes it is expressed with more linguistic authority than I've ever actually felt in my body. In any case, it is a reimagination of the original feeling as a means of both self-preservation just as much as a means of self-disclosure.

 Personal essays are often a middle chapter in a life. A mark of punctuation. A turning point. A milestone.  They are made more poignant by being incomplete, teetering on the edge of some resolution but not entirely resolved. And though they are abridged version's of the writer's reality, they have the power to make readers feel something like resolution. These essays take what people thought was disfigured in them and readers recognize it as a familiar scar. And in showing the distance between the writer and the wound, proving that they can be made whole again.